If you are new to fostering, you may be in the “exploring” part of the Fostering Journey. This is where most people tend to start if they are deciding whether to become a Foster Carer. This tends to involve research and fact-finding to determine whether you might be suited to the role.

A foster child is a child or young person who is unable to live with their birth family, kinship carers or family and friend carers. Your role as Foster Carer is to provide a stable and loving home to a child or young person in need. There are a number of different ways to provide this care, including short term fostering or long term fostering.

It’s important to note that neither type is “better” than the other - whether a child is in long or short-term care ultimately depends on what is in their best interests (depending on their individual needs and circumstances). You may find a short term placement is a more suitable option for you and your family depending on what your capacity is in terms of care provision.


Long Term Fostering

In a long term placement, a foster child lives with your family until such time as they may be able to return to live with their own family. In Scotland, this refers to a period longer than 24 months. It is important to be mindful that we cannot predict how long the child will need to be with a fostering family as that is dependent on a range of factors for example; their parent's capacity to meet their needs, to provide a safe caring environment and to address any personal issues which might have impacted on their ability to parent the child previously. ,

In some situations, for example, where it is considered detrimental to the child’s best interests, it may not be possible to reunite children and young people with their birth families.

Frequently, children who have left long term placements remain in touch with their foster families long after they have grown up and left home, as they have had time to bond with their families and establish long-term positive relationships with them.

Depending on their circumstances, a long term placement may offer the level of consistency and security a looked-after child needs in order to thrive  When their Foster Carer has the opportunity to provide long term support this can go a long way to help children and young people heal from their previous trauma and loss.


Short Term Fostering

In other situations, short term or “interim” placements may be more beneficial. This is the most common type of foster care and can last from a few weeks up to 2 years. In general, the goal of short term fostering is to provide a safe, nurturing home for a child in need until they are able to return to their birth family, with whom you (as Foster Carer) maintain contact throughout the placement.

The reasons a child might need short term care vary and might involve:

  • A period of Assessment where the child can be looked after safely while the Professionals involved eg Social Services/Health work with birth families to help them address any issues which have impacted their ability to parent.
  • Providing respite for parents of disabled children or a child with complex health needs, or for parents who are finding it too difficult to cope with childcare at this particular time.

Offering interim care for a child awaiting a permanent placement or moving to Adoption.

  • Caring for a child while their parents are engaged in legal proceedings to assess and determine which of their birth parents/family members will look after them in future.
  • Caring for a child while one or both of their parents (or guardians) are unwell.


What Other Outcomes are There for Short Term Placements?

While the main focus of foster care is to reconnect children and young people with their families, every situation is different and this may not always be the case.

In some circumstances, children who have been placed on a  short term basis may go on to need this on a longer-term basis, therefore it can be helpful to see that on occasion short term can evolve into a long term arrangement in effect a continuum of care. If you are a foster carer and this situation is becoming a clear possibility then we will ensure that you are happy to continue to care for the child/ren and that you have the supports in place to allow you to do that.  

If you are interested in becoming a Foster Carer and would like to learn more, get in touch with us via our contact page.